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The Bradys Beyond Their Depth; Or, The Great Swamp Mystery, Page 2

Francis Worcester Doughty



  A cabman was standing beside his horse at Union Square, and the olddetective approached him and asked, hastily:

  "Did you see an undertaker's wagon just go by here?"

  "Oi did, sor, tin minutes ago," promptly replied the driver.

  "In which direction did it go?"

  "Turned inter Broadway, an' wint downtown."

  "Drive us after it as fast as you can."

  "Yis, sor. Get in."

  They entered the cab and were driven to Courtlandt street, as differentpeople they spoke to said they had seen the undertaker's wagon as faras that point.

  A policeman was seen on the corner, and Harry accosted him with:

  "Hello, Bob!"

  "Why--Harry--how are you? What are you chasing?"

  "After an undertaker's wagon."

  "One just left a box in the baggage room at the Pennsylvania depot."

  "Look like a coffin?"

  "Yes," replied the policeman. "I just came from there. Two men had it.I'll describe them."

  And he gave a good description of Sim and Solomon Gloom.

  "Thanks. That's the gang we're after," said Harry, when he finished.

  And away went the Bradys to the Pennsylvania depot at the foot ofCourtlandt street.

  It was a suspicion of the Bradys that the mysterious box would beshipped out of the city by rail, that led them to see if the wagon hadgone to the depot.

  They did not find the box in the baggage room.

  But they learned that a man answering Solomon Gloom's description hadchecked it through to Savannah, Georgia, and it had been sent over theriver and was put in the baggage car.

  "How soon does that train leave?" asked Harry, quickly.

  "The connecting boat goes in three minutes, sir," replied the porter,glancing at his watch.

  "Old King Brady, we must go out on that train," said the boy, quickly."It's our only chance to find out what's in that box."

  "Run for the ticket office, then," said the veteran, promptly. "Mr.Gloom is evidently going out on the train with it. If there's anycrooked work going on here we may be able to arrest him."

  They rushed to the office, procured tickets, and just had time to jumpaboard the boat as it pulled out of the slip.

  Reaching the Jersey side, they boarded the train.

  Seeing nothing of Mr. Gloom in that car, they sat down to map out acourse of action, as everything had hitherto been done on the spur ofthe moment.

  Just then the train started.

  "This is a most singular case, Harry," the old detective exclaimed. "Wemay be on a wild-goose chase, or we may be on the eve of exposing arevolting crime. Everything up to the present moment leads me tobelieve in the latter idea. We can only verify our suspicion by openingthat big box and looking at the contents. This I intend to do."

  "Our safest course will be to capture Solomon Gloom first, and thenconfront him with the contents of the box," replied Harry. "If we finda corpse there, we may learn whose it is and why the man was killed."

  "Very true," assented Old King Brady, with a nod, as he pushed hiswhite hair back from his massive brow. "And if we don't find a corpsein the box we'll have the satisfaction of arresting Gloom for shootingyou."

  "The man lied outrageously to you, in order to fool you," said Harry."So there isn't much reliance to be placed on anything he said, till weprove it."

  "Let's see his business card," said the old detective, "now that I'vegot a light."

  He drew the pasteboard from his pocket and glanced at it.

  To his surprise he found that it really was the business card of oneSolomon Gloom, undertaker, of Seventh avenue.

  "This seems to be all right," he remarked.

  "How about the permit from the Health Department?"

  Old King Brady drew the paper from his pocket and glanced at it keenly.

  Once more he was surprised to discover that it was a genuine printedform stating that Mr. Gloom was permitted to remove the corpse ofAlbert Reid from the Thirty-sixth street house to the Fresh PondCrematory. The permit added that the broker had died of small-pox.

  "We can't say he lied about this, either," commented the old detective.

  "But how about the gory dagger you said you found in the empty house?"

  "Here it is. And it's a very unique weapon."

  Old King Brady held up the knife.

  It had a double-edged blade, eight inches long, as thin as paper, andwas embossed with the initials P. V., in frosted letters.

  "What an ugly-looking weapon!" Harry commented, with a shudder.

  "It's an oddity," replied the old detective. "But it isn't a certaintythat these are the initials of the person who last used it."

  "You'd better keep those three things," advised Harry, thoughtfully."They may come in handy if this case amounts to anything."

  "If they serve us no better purpose, we can show them to our chief whenwe get back to New York, so he will have evidence of what we aredoing," said Old King Brady, with a faint smile.

  "He expected a report from us to-night, on the case he put us on, buthe won't get it," said Harry, grimly.

  The boy referred to some work they had been doing before they stumbledupon the Thirty-sixth street affair.

  Information had reached the Central Office that Oliver Dalton, a Broadstreet broker, suspected his nephew, Ronald Mason, of robbing his mail.

  The detectives had gone to the broker's house in West Thirty-eighthstreet to get the particulars privately. But the man's daughter,Lizzie, told them her father had not yet come home. They waited for himtill nearly eight o'clock, and as Mr. Dalton did not appear, they weregoing back to headquarters when they stumbled upon the suspicious casealready recorded here.

  Old King Brady smiled at Harry's remark.

  "There's no great hurry about that case," he remarked.

  "Well," said the boy, "are you ready to go through the cars on a huntfor Solomon Gloom? We must make sure of our man before he has a chanceto alight at a way station and elude us."

  Old King Brady bent nearer to Harry, to reply, when suddenly a clothwas thrown over their heads by a man who sat behind them.

  The cloth was saturated with chloroform.

  While the detectives were struggling to extricate their heads, theyinhaled the deadly fumes and were overcome by the drug.

  Not until they were fast asleep did the man remove the cloth.

  No one had seen the deed, as they occupied the last seats in the aisleand not an undue noise had arisen to attract attention.

  Seeing the detectives stupid from the drug, a low chuckle escaped theman, and he rose to his feet and muttered:

  "Sleep, you dogs! Tracked me, eh? Well, it won't do you any good.You'll be snoring long after we reach Georgia. And when you do arouseyourselves, you'll find the box gone from this train. This must be amighty good disguise, if you failed to recognize Solomon Gloom init--really, a very clever disguise."

  And he chuckled again, glanced at the gray suit and bicycle cap hewore, felt of the false beard covering his face and walked into one ofthe forward cars where he had a chance to remain until the opportunitycame for him to alight at his destination.

  The lightning express train went thundering along over the rails andthe Bradys slept on until mid-day.

  When they aroused themselves, the cars had left Charleston.

  Their fury knew no bounds, and Old King Brady said, bitterly:

  "It must have been Gloom who did that."

  "If it were, he was cleverly disguised and must have been the fellowwho sat behind us apparently reading a newspaper," replied Harry.

  "Perhaps he's on the train yet."

  "If he is, we'll find him."

  "All I want is to get my hands on the rascal!"

  "Are you ready to search for him?"

  "Come ahead," replied Old King Brady, rising to his feet.

  They passed slowly through the car, carefully studying each pass

  There were two more passenger coaches, a smoking car and a baggage carahead, and the detectives searched them thoroughly for the undertaker.

  But to their disgust he was not found.

  They paused on the platform of the baggage car and Harry exclaimed:

  "He must have checked the box through on a ticket he bought forSavannah, and then hid somewhere on this train."

  "Which shows what a foxy gentleman we have to contend with," mutteredOld King Brady, grimly. "He feared pursuit."

  "No doubt of it."

  "Here comes the conductor. We can explain matters to him and open thebox."

  They had no trouble to persuade the conductor of the importance ofseeing what the box contained, and they all had a talk with the baggagemaster.

  He held them off until nightfall.

  As the Bradys promised to have him absolved from blame, he finally gavehis permission to them to open the box.

  Harry cut the rope that bound it and Old King Brady pried off the lidwith an axe taken from one of the racks.

  The conductor held a lantern over the box.

  As the lid fell off, they were startled to see the body of a man lyingin the box.

  His face was partly averted, as he lay upon his side.

  But the detectives saw that he was a man of about fifty, his portlyform clad in a dark suit of clothes. His head was partly bald on topand his hair was gray. There was a closely-trimmed mustache of the samecolor on his upper lip, and his flesh, although pallid, had not yetchanged to the waxen hue of death.

  It was evident that he was a victim of foul play, for his hands werebound behind his back, and his ankles tied together, while a gag wassecured over his mouth as if to stifle his outcries.

  The detectives had no chance to observe any more, just then, for theresuddenly sounded a quick danger signal of the locomotive's whistle.

  The engineer shut off steam, put on the brakes, and the startledconductor rushed from the car with the lantern, leaving the place ingloom.

  "What can be the matter?" muttered Old King Brady.

  "There's a fire on the track ahead!" said Harry, peering out the sidedoor.

  "Where are we?" queried the baggage master, hastily.

  "Next to a big swamp," replied Harry. "And, by Jove--see--see! There'san obstruction--a heap of sleepers piled across the rails beyond thebonfire."

  "What the deuce can that mean?" muttered Old King Brady. "Banditstrying to rob this train? It don't seem possible, in thisneighborhood."

  The train paused and they all alighted.

  Some of the brakemen ran ahead, and under the conductor's directionthey removed the obstructions from the rails.

  The fire seemed to have been built where it was to show the engineerthe pile of sleepers, and the brakemen scattered it, when the barrierwas removed.

  As the bell rang, every one got aboard and the cars slowly went ahead.

  The Bradys and the baggage master returned to the latter's car.

  "We'll finish our examination of that body," said Old King Brady.

  "Yes," said Harry, "and----Good gracious! Where's the box gone?"

  Box and body had vanished.

  Every one was astounded.

  Then, like a flash, the truth suddenly dawned upon Harry's mind, and hecried:

  "Now I see through it. Those obstructions were put on the rails to stopthe train at this point so that the body could be removed from thiscar."

  "By whom?" demanded the startled baggage master.

  "Accessories of the villain who killed that man!" cried the boy."They've carried the body off in the swamp to hide the evidence oftheir crime. Come, Old King Brady, alight here and see if we can traceit."

  The detectives made a rush for the door and leaped from the train.

  They landed beside the roadbed, and the cars went on without them.